By Allan Muir
Joel Quenneville knows that past performance is no guarantee of future results. But after watching his team held to just two goals during the last nine periods by Tuukka Rask and the smothering defense of the Boston Bruins, he knows his Chicago Blackhawks won’t have a future if he doesn’t try something drastic.
So he’s counting on a unit that led the comeback against the Detroit Red Wings to right the ship in Game 4. It’s been confirmed that he will reunite Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell for tonight’s contest.
The only question is: what took so long?
Outside of a penalty-killing shift in Game 3, Quenneville has been reluctant to put his two best weapons on the ice at the same time in this series. Instead, he skated Toews between fourth-line checkers Michal Frolik and Marcus Kruger for most of Game 3, before trying him with Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg. Neither combination generated much of anything, which opened him up to some criticism for not reuniting Toews and Kane when Game 3 was still up for grabs.
Quenneville will have to chalk his hesitation up to a missed opportunity if they turn the tide tonight. Toews thinks they’re ready to do just that.
“We’ve had some success against L.A.,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Whatever the combinations are, we always say we’ve got to find a way to score, find a way to play smart defensively. But tonight I think we have confidence together as a line with Bicks and Kaner that we can make things happen. We were close last game to scoring. We didn’t get on the scoresheet. Obviously that’s not good enough. That will be one of our main goals tonight.”
Marian Hossa is expected back in the lineup tonight, so it’ll help if he adds some heft to a second line with Sharp. But whatever Toews, Kane and Bickell can chip in would be an improvement on their performance through the first three games of the Cup final. They’ve combined for one point — an assist by Kane — against a defense that has taken away their time and space and turned them into non-factors.
If they’re going to change the dynamic tonight, they’ll have to do it against Boston’s Zdeno Chara and his hard-rock partner, Dennis Seidenberg. Clearing some space against those two behemoths is Bickell’s responsibility.
“[It's] Tazer’s work ethic and Kaner’s skills, and I think I just got mixed in there just to get something in front of the net, just to give [the other team] a harder time,” Bickell said. “I think it worked good last series and hopefully we can carry it on here.”